Children of Immigrants: Health, Adjustment, and Public Assistance
Donald J. Hernandez
The children of today are the citizens, workers, and parents of America s future, and no group of American children is expanding more rapidly than those in immigrant families. During the seven years from 1990 to 1997, the number of children in immigrant families grew by 47 percent, compared to only 7 percent for children of native-born parents, and by 1997 nearly one of every five children (14 million) was the child of an immigrant (Hernandez and Charney, 1998). Most of the growth in the number of children during the next three decades also will occur through immigration and births to immigrants and their children. Mainly because the majority of children in immigrant families are of Hispanic or Asian origin, the proportion of children in the United States who are non-Hispanic whites is projected to drop from 69 percent in 1990 to only 50 percent in 2030 (Day, 1996).1 Meanwhile, as the baby boom generation reaches retirement ages, the vast majority (about 75 percent) of elderly persons also will be non-Hispanic whites. Thus, as the predominantly non-Hispanic white baby boom generation ages, it will depend increasingly for its economic support on the productivity,
health, and civic participation of adults who are members of racial and ethnic minorities, many of whom lived in immigrant families as children.
Because of the burgeoning importance of children in immigrant families to the vitality of this nation, the Committee on the Health and Adjustment of Immigrant Children and Families was appointed to assess the state of scientific knowledge about the circumstances, health, and development of children in immigrant families in the United States and about the delivery of health and social services to these children and families. The committee was struck, as it began deliberating, by the paucity of research on these issues. To supplement existing knowledge, the committee commissioned new research presented in the 11 papers in this volume. Nearly a dozen federal agencies conduct or fund data collection and research efforts that constitute the core of the nation's system for monitoring and understanding the physical and mental health of children in the United States, their exposure to risk and protective factors, and their access to and use of public benefits.2 Yet few studies of children in immigrant families have been conducted using these data. Thus, the studies presented in this book are among the first to address critical issues about the current circumstances and future prospects of this country's most rapidly expanding population of children through detailed analyses of nationally or regionally representative surveys and censuses that constitute a large share of the national system for monitoring the health and well-being of the U.S. population.
The research presented in this book was made possible by support from the committee's sponsoring agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—the Public Health Service, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Additional funding was provided by the Na-
tional Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education in the U.S. Department of Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the W.T. Grant Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the California Wellness Foundation. In developing the research for this book, the chapter authors met three times as a group, first to elaborate a guiding conceptual framework and outline complementary analyses, next to review and comment on first drafts of all papers, and then (with the parent committee) to develop plans for extending and refining the analyses presented in second drafts. David L. Featherman, director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, was especially helpful in providing both access to the institute's resources and intellectual guidance during the first meeting of the group.
To answer key scientific questions regarding the relationships linking immigration to the health and well-being of children (ages 0 to 17), chapter authors were asked to distinguish children, insofar as possible, along three major dimensions. First, to assess the extent and nature of assimilation that occurs from one generation to the next, children were identified as being first-generation (foreign-born), second-generation (native-born with at least one foreign-born parent), or third-generation (native-born with native-born parents) offspring (but see individual chapters for the precise approach used in each). Second, because countries around the world differ enormously in social, economic, and cultural conditions, children were identified according to their specific countries of origin. Third, because life chances differ greatly according to race and ethnicity in the United States, and because the racial and ethnic composition of immigrants to this country has shifted markedly during recent decades toward a larger representation of Hispanic and nonwhite minorities, the studies herein compare the situations of children in immigrant families (first or second generations) to those in native-born families (third and later generations) who are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian.
Among the best-documented relationships in epidemiology and child development are that children and youth are at risk of negative health, developmental, and educational outcomes if their family incomes are below the poverty threshold, their parents have low educational attainments, only one parent or many sib-
lings are in the home, or they live in overcrowded housing.3 In Chapter 2, Hernandez and Darke report analyses of 1990 decennial census data indicating that children and adolescents in immigrant families are, on average, less likely than children in native-born families to live with only one parent but somewhat more likely to have a family income below the official poverty threshold (despite high rates of fathers' labor force participation for most countries of origin), to have parents with very low educational attainments, to have many siblings, and to live in overcrowded housing. These socioeconomic risk levels differed enormously, however, by country of origin. Children with origins in two dozen particular countries, for example, had poverty rates below those for non-Hispanic whites in native-born families, while children with origins in 12 other countries that account for close to half of all children in immigrant families had a poverty rate of 35 percent and elevated risks along several additional socioeconomic dimensions. Many officially recognized refugees come from five of these 12 countries (the former Soviet Union, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam), and immigrants from four of these countries have fled homelands experiencing war or political instability (El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Haiti). Two are small countries sending many labor migrants (Honduras and the Dominican Republic). The twelfth country is Mexico, which currently sends the largest number of both legal and illegal labor immigrants and which has been a major source of unskilled labor for the U.S. economy throughout the twentieth century.
Children in immigrant families may experience additional risk factors associated with their families' immigration. Lack of English fluency and other cultural differences may not pose enormous difficulties for immigrants in communities with a large number of individuals from the same country of origin, but they
can limit their effective functioning in the broader society in health care facilities, schools, and other settings that provide essential resources to children and youth in immigrant families. Children and youth from the 12 countries noted above with especially high socioeconomic risks are highly likely to live in linguistically isolated households in which no one over age 13 speaks English exclusively or very well. Hernandez and Darke (Chapter 2, this volume) found from 1910 census data that the overall proportion of children with non-English-speaking parents today is similar to that at the turn of the century. Nevertheless, about one-half of first-generation children and four-fifths of second-generation children speak English exclusively or very well.
The physical and mental health of children and youth in immigrant families and the extent to which they adjust successfully to U.S. society are the subjects of Chapters 3 through 8. Along a number of important dimensions, children and adolescents in immigrant families appear to experience better health and adjustment than do children and youth in native-born families—results that are counterintuitive in light of the racial or ethnic minority status, the overall lower socioeconomic status, and the higher poverty that characterize many immigrant children and their families.
Access to health care services, particularly for children, is essential to ensure that preventive services are provided as recommended, acute and chronic conditions are diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, and health and development are adequately monitored so that minor health problems do not escalate into serious and costly medical emergencies. Access, in turn, is facilitated by health insurance coverage and having a usual source of care. In Chapter 3, Brown et al. present analyses of access to health insurance and health care based on the 1996 Current Population Survey and the 1994 National Health Interview Survey.
Immigrant children and youth are three times as likely, and citizen children and youth with immigrant parents are twice as likely, compared to those in native-born families to lack health insurance coverage, mainly because of its high cost and lack of employer coverage. Even among children whose parents work full time year-round, those in immigrant families are less likely to be insured than those in native-born families with U.S.-born par-
ents. Hispanic children and youth are the most likely of all immigrant groups studied to lack health insurance. Medicaid has played an important role in reducing the risk of not having health insurance among immigrant children and youth, with about one in four receiving their coverage through this source. Moreover, in large part because of the automatic eligibility of refugees for Medicaid, Southeast Asian children exhibit very low rates of not being covered by health insurance despite their very low socioeconomic status.
Immigrant children and youth—regardless of whether they are Hispanic, Asian, or non-Hispanic white—are considerably less likely than U.S.-born children and youth with either immigrant or U.S.-born parents to have had at least one doctor's visit during the previous 12 months. They are also less likely to have a usual health care provider or source of health care. Children and adolescents in immigrant families who are not insured are less likely to have a connection to the health care system than those with Medicaid or private or other coverage. Those who are uninsured and have no usual source of care have the lowest probability of having seen a doctor.
Analyses reported elsewhere (Hernandez and Charney, 1998) that were commissioned by the committee and conducted by Brown et al. (1998) using the 1994 National Health Interview Survey indicate that, according to the reports of parents of children in immigrant families, such children experience fewer acute and chronic health problems than children in native-born families, including infectious and parasitic diseases; acute ear infections; acute injuries; chronic respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, and hay fever; and chronic hearing, speech, and deformity impairments. In Chapter 4, Mendoza and Dixon report additional estimates for children of Mexican origin using the 1996 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey; which also relied on parent reports. They found that first-and second-generation children have fewer acute injuries and poisonings and fewer major activity limitations than third-and later-generation children. Although these differences are not always statistically significant because of the limited sample sizes of available datasets, they are quite consistent.
Two commonly used indicators of infant health are the rate of
low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and infant mortality (deaths in the first year of life; Institute of Medicine, 1985; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1986). In Chapter 5, Landale, Oropesa, and Gorman report analyses using the national Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Sets for a wide range of immigrant groups, including Mexicans, Cubans, Central/South Americans, Chinese, Filipinos, and Japanese. They found that children born in the United States to immigrant mothers are less likely to have low birthweights and to die in the first year of life than are children born to native-born mothers from the same ethnic group, despite the generally poorer socioeconomic circumstances of immigrant mothers from many specific countries of origin. These results confirm and extend earlier analyses for the Mexican American population. The nativity differentials in birthweight and infant mortality in other groups are often smaller than they are for Mexican Americans, however, and are sometimes consistent with expectations based on socioeconomic differences between immigrant and native-born women. Differences in rates of cigarette smoking are one important determinant of the differences in low birthweight and infant mortality between immigrant and native-born women.
In Chapter 6, Harris reports on health status and risky behaviors, using the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) for children in grades 7 through 12 in 1995 with origins in Mexico, Cuba, Central/South America, China, the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Africa/Afro Caribbean, and Europe/Canada. Among adolescents overall and for most of the specific countries of origin studied, immigrants were less likely than native-born adolescents with immigrant or native-born parents to consider themselves in poor health or to have school absences that were due to health or emotional problems. First-generation immigrant adolescents also reported that they were less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as first sexual intercourse at an early age, delinquent or violent behaviors, and use of cigarettes and substance abuse. Yet immigrant adolescents living in the United States for longer periods of time tend to be less healthy and to report greater prevalence of risky behaviors. By the third generation, rates of most of these behaviors approach or exceed those of native-born non-Hispanic white adolescents.
These estimates raise the intriguing possibility that immigrant children and youth are somewhat protected, albeit temporarily, from deleterious health consequences that typically accompany poverty, minority status, and other indicators of disadvantage in the United States. However, not all of the conclusions that can be drawn about the health of immigrant children are favorable. Mendoza and Dixon (Chapter 4) found, for example, that children in immigrant families from Mexico are more likely to be reported by their parents as having teeth that are in only poor to fair condition and those over age 6 are reported as being much more likely to have ever had anemia and, especially for those ages 12 to 16, to have vision problems. In addition, epidemiological evidence as well as physician reports indicate that children of recently arrived immigrants, particularly those from selected high-risk countries, are at elevated risk of harboring or acquiring tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and parasitic infections and of having unsafe levels of lead in their blood (Hernandez and Charney, 1998).
In Chapter 7, Nord and Griffin report on analyses using the National Education Household Survey (NEHS) pertaining to family and school experiences that influence children's educational accomplishments. Family members can foster school success by engaging in various activities with their young children, including teaching them letters and numbers, reading to them, and working on projects with them. In 1996 children in immigrant families were equally or only somewhat less likely than non-Hispanic white children in native-born families to have parents who engaged in seven different activities of this type during the past week. Among children in immigrant families, the proportions were usually higher for second-generation children than for the first generation, and the proportions tended to be somewhat lower for Hispanic children than for Asians. Parents can also foster school achievement by taking their children on a variety of educational outings. Estimates of the proportion of immigrant and native-born children whose parents took them on six different types of outings in 1996 did not vary systematically between first-, second-, third-, and later-generation immigrants or between Hispanic and Asian children in immigrant families.
The involvement of parents in their children's schools is a
third set of activities that foster successful school achievement. Children in immigrant families were about as likely as children in native-born Hispanic and black families to have parents who reported themselves as being highly involved in their children's schools. Although children in immigrant families were somewhat less likely than children in non-Hispanic white families to have parents who were highly involved in school, most of the difference was accounted for by the higher proportion with a moderate level of parental involvement. Parental involvement was somewhat greater for the second generation than the first and for Asian children in immigrant families compared to corresponding Hispanic children.
Also in the NEHS, children in immigrant families were less likely to be enrolled in prekindergarten childhood programs, which help children prepare for school, than were children from native-born families of various racial and ethnic groups. The second generation was more likely than the first to attend such programs, and Hispanic children in immigrant families were slightly less likely than Asians to do so.
Children are able to learn better if the schools they attend are well disciplined. Parental participation can be encouraged by a variety of school practices that foster such involvement. In parental ratings of children's schools along 10 dimensions, these proportions varied substantially but not usually in any specific direction in comparisons across racial, ethnic, and immigrant groups.
Kao presents new estimates of psychological adjustment in Chapter 8 using the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS) of 1988 for eighth graders from China, the Philippines, Mexico, and other Hispanic countries as does Harris in Chapter 6 (see above using Add Health). The Add Health survey measured psychological distress and psychological well-being; the NELS measured feelings of having control over the direction of one's life (self-efficacy), self-esteem, and feelings of being unpopular among school peers (alienation).
Kao found that first- and second-generation adolescents had significantly lower feelings of self-efficacy and higher feelings of alienation from their schoolmates compared with children in native-born families. In contrast, adolescents in immigrant and native-born families did not differ in self-esteem. Harris also found
no differences between youth in immigrant and native-born families in psychological well-being and psychological distress. Taken together, these results suggest that adolescents in immigrant families may be able to maintain positive feelings about themselves and their general well-being despite perceiving that they have relatively less control over their lives and that they are less well accepted by their school peers.
Important differences among adolescents in immigrant families emerge, however, in analyses distinguishing youth by country of origin and racial and ethnic group and when controls for socioeconomic status are added. In the NELS data, lower levels of feeling control over their own lives occurred among first- and second-generation Mexican-origin and other Hispanic-origin adolescents and among first-generation Chinese, Filipino, and black adolescents but not among the second generations of the latter groups or among first- or second-generation white youth in immigrant families. Alienation among adolescents in immigrant families, compared to youth in native-born families, was found specifically among first- and second-generation Mexican and Chinese youth but not among other groups. Although adolescents in immigrant families do not experience greater psychological distress according to the Add Health data than those in native-born families, first- and second-generation Mexican and Filipino youth overall are more likely to feel such distress than are non-Hispanic white adolescents.
Once controls for socioeconomic status are added, the NELS data continue to show relatively lower self-efficacy and greater feelings of alienation among most of the Hispanic, Asian, and black generational groups experiencing these disadvantages, compared to non-Hispanic whites in native-born families. Socioeconomic controls have little effect on the magnitude of the disadvantage for Asian youth (both Chinese and Filipino), but 40 to 60 percent of the disadvantage for Hispanic and black youth is accounted for by their lower parental education and income. Moreover, the lower self-esteem of first- and second-generation Mexican adolescents, compared to non-Hispanic whites in native-born families, is accounted for entirely by the lower socioeconomic status of the Mexican-origin youth.
When controls for socioeconomic influences such as family
poverty and disadvantaged neighborhood circumstances are introduced in the Add Health data, these factors were found to be very influential predictors of psychological distress for all adolescents, especially Mexican-origin youth. This pattern of results suggests, with the noteworthy partial exception of Mexican youth, a protective influence of immigrant status for adolescents who, because of exposure to poverty and inner-city neighborhoods, would be expected to show poor psychological health.
Kao also assesses educational accomplishments among adolescents in Chapter 8. First- and second-generation adolescents in immigrant families nationally have slightly higher grades and math test scores than adolescents in native-born families, but the reading test scores of first-generation adolescents are somewhat lower than those of youth in native-born families. The relationship is not uniform for adolescents in immigrant families but varies by country of origin.
First-, second-, and higher-generation Mexican adolescents are similar in grades and in math test scores, although there is a tendency, especially for reading test scores, toward improvement across generations. Mexican adolescents of all generations have substantially lower educational achievements than non-Hispanic white adolescents in native-born families; most of the difference for each generation is explained by lower levels of parental education and lower family income among Mexican adolescents.
Chinese adolescents in immigrant families, especially the second generation, exceed Chinese adolescents in native-born families in grades and math test scores. However, only the second generation exceeds the third and higher generations in reading test scores. Chinese first- and second-generation adolescents also exceed non-Hispanic white adolescents in native-born families in grades and math test scores. The second generation has higher reading scores as well. The superior grades and math test scores of first-generation Chinese are not explained by socioeconomic status, psychological well-being, or other school experiences. For the second generation, however, one-third to one-half of the superior performance is explained by these factors, particularly parental education and family income.
Among Filipino adolescents, the second generation also achieves better grades and math and reading test scores than the
first or third and higher generations. Compared to non-Hispanic white adolescents in native-born families, first- and second-generation Filipino adolescents achieve higher grades. One-half to three-fourths of the Filipino advantage in math and reading test scores, compared to non-Hispanic white adolescents in native-born families, is accounted for by differences in parents' education and family income.
The Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS), conducted in Southern California (San Diego) and South Florida (Miami and Fort Lauderdale), is the first large-scale survey of changes in the family, community, and educational experiences of youth in immigrant families from 77 countries of origin, mainly in the western hemisphere and Asia (see Portes, 1995, 1996; Portes and MacLeod, 1996; Portes and Rumbaut, 1996; Rumbaut, 1994a, 1994b, 1995, 1997a, 1997b). Although it does not provide nationally representative estimates for children from these countries of origin and does not include comparative data from native-born families, the survey is a rich source of psychological data and provides insights into the processes that might underlie patterns in the psychological well-being of immigrant youth.
Rumbaut uses these data in Chapter 9 in analyses of San Diego youth who were originally from Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos. This research assessed possible risk and protective factors for low self-esteem and depressive symptoms, including gender, country of origin, intra- and extra-family contexts and stressors, educational aspirations and achievement, language preference and skills, and physical looks and popularity with the opposite sex.
The study found that low self-esteem and high depressive symptoms were more frequent among female immigrants and children experiencing high parent-child conflict, low family cohesion, recent serious illness or disability in the family, a high proportion of English only spoken in the neighborhood, a school perceived as unsafe, dissatisfaction with physical looks, and lack of popularity with the opposite sex. Seven additional factors associated with higher depression were a later age at arrival in the United States, a nonintact family, a recent worsening of the family's economic situation, perceptions of poor teaching quality or unfairness, experience with stress in school, a high proportion
of friends not planning to attend college, and experience with racial or ethnic discrimination. Also associated with low self-esteem were such factors as being of Filipino or Vietnamese origin, a recent family move to another home, low grades and educational aspirations, limited English proficiency (LEP), and LEP status in 1991. The NELS data discussed above also revealed the importance of language factors and school experiences in feelings of self-efficacy among Hispanic and black immigrant youth but not for Asian immigrant youth. Of course, it is important to know that the direction of causation may often operate in the opposite direction (e.g., lower self-esteem may lead to the perception that one's neighborhood is unsafe).
In the San Diego study, Rumbaut found that adolescents in immigrant families had higher grades at every grade level than the districtwide average and lower school dropout rates, even among Mexican-origin adolescents, despite significant socioeconomic and linguistic handicaps. Factors contributing to these outcomes are the amount of time spent doing homework, time spent watching television, and the educational aspirations of the adolescents and their parents.
Prior to passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), eligibility rules for most health and welfare programs were nearly identical for legal immigrants, refugees, and native-born citizens. Under welfare reform, the extremely restrictive eligibility rules for many programs that applied historically only to illegal immigrants are now also applied to legal immigrants who arrived after August 22, 1996 (when PRWORA became law), unless they become citizens, and to refugees beginning five to seven years after arrival in the United States. In addition, the focus of decisions affecting immigrant children's eligibility for many benefits has shifted from the federal government to the states. Specific provisions of welfare reform are subject to change as the legislation evolves, but it is clear that the law's potential impact on immigrant children and youth derives in large part from the programmatic reach of the new restrictions on immigrants' eligibility for public benefits, which go far beyond welfare as conventionally known to encompass benefits programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, and noncash services.
Benefits and services provided by health and social programs, whether from public or private sources, represent important investments in and critical resources for all children and youth, including but not restricted to those in immigrant families. Analyses of the extent to which first-, second-, and third- and later-generation children live in families that receive assistance from important federal programs are presented by Hofferth in Chapter 10 using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and by Brandon in Chapter 11 using the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).
Prior to welfare reform, children and adolescents in immigrant families were about as likely as, or only slightly more likely than, children and youth in native-born families to live in families that received public assistance, particularly noncash assistance. Most of the differences that existed reflected higher participation rates for first-generation children.
The comparatively high rates of reliance on public assistance among first-generation families are largely attributable to their disadvantaged socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, not their immigrant status per se. When comparisons are made between immigrant and native-born families with adjustments for these characteristics, the differences either disappear or, in the case of children and youth in Mexican immigrant families, the differences indicate less reliance on the public assistance programs for which they are eligible. In addition, the special refugee status of many immigrants from Southeast Asia and the former Soviet bloc countries appears to involve comparatively high participation rates for the first generation, while children and youth in Mexican immigrant families are less likely than those in native-born families at the same socioeconomic level to live in families that rely on both cash and noncash public assistance.
In Chapter 12, Mines uses the National Agricultural Workers Survey to portray the situation of a small but highly disadvantaged population of children in immigrant (and native-born) families—those living with a migrant farmworker parent. Mines documents the extraordinarily high proportions of U.S.-based children of migrant farmworkers who have a parent who completed less than eight years of schooling (60 percent) and who live in poverty (more than 67 percent).
Prior to the new studies presented in this book, few of the datasets represented here had been used to assess the circumstances of children in immigrant families. These new studies made every effort to draw on available measures to correctly identify and present estimates for children by generation and immigrant status, country of origin, and race and ethnicity. But because few national information systems currently collect the full array of data needed on country of origin and immigrant status and because few have samples large enough to support conclusions for more than three or four specific countries of origin, the results derived in these studies should be viewed as the best-available first step in assessing the circumstances of children in immigrant families. The approaches used to classify children differ somewhat from study to study, and the reader is encouraged to consult the individual chapters for detailed descriptions of data and procedures.
Examples of the important limits imposed by current measurement in the datasets that provide the foundation for this book are to be noted here, however. None explicitly identify undocumented children and parents, and although some undocumented persons may be included in most samples, estimates of under-coverage of the undocumented population in these data systems are not available. Many datasets do not ascertain detailed country of birth for foreign-born persons. Hence, information on race and ethnicity (e.g., Chinese, Filipino, Mexican) is used as a proxy, leading to a misclassification of country of birth for some children or parents. Because the 1990 census and most other datasets do not ask country of birth of parents, birthplaces can be ascertained for parents living in the child's home but not for parents living elsewhere. Hence, second-generation children who have only one foreign-born parent and who do not have that parent in the home are misclassified as third-generation children. More generally, because virtually no information is available regarding the characteristics or circumstances of parents not living in a child's home, most estimates pertaining to children's parents exclude parents not in the home. Also, available data do not allow most third- and higher-generation children to be classified by country of origin, except through the use of race and ethnicity data.
Another caveat regarding inferences drawn from these studies is that differences between first, second, and later generations may reflect changes brought about through the process of intergenerational assimilation; but differences between the generations may, alternatively, reflect changes over years or decades in the characteristics of successive waves of immigrants. For example, among the four Central American countries with high U.S. child poverty rates and for which information is available in the 1990 census not only for the first two generations but also for later-generation children, poverty is substantially lower among third-and later-generation children than among second-generation children. Although this might be due to intergenerational socioeconomic assimilation, a more plausible interpretation is that poverty is lower among the later generations because the grandparents of the third-and later-generation children entered the United States in earlier times with much higher socioeconomic status than did the parents of second-generation children who immigrated more recently. Results presented by Hernandez and Darke (Chapter 2) suggest that such a change in the characteristics of immigrants from these countries did, in fact, occur; the parental educational attainments of children in immigrant families from these four countries in 1960 were much higher than in 1990. The characteristics of successive waves of immigrants to the United States from several other countries of origin, including Cuba and Vietnam, also have changed greatly over time.
Finally, trajectories of health, development, assimilation, and adjustment occur across periods of years or decades for children, and the nature of individual outcomes depends on the timing and sequencing of specific personal, family, neighborhood, and historical events in a child's life. These are best measured and analyzed through longitudinal data collection and research that follow the same individuals over extended periods. Only the study by Rumbaut (Chapter 9) using the CILS undertakes analyses that follow children across two periods of time, although several of these datasets (Add Health, NELS, PSID, SIPP) provide such an opportunity for future research.
Despite the limitations of the studies presented in this book, they represent some of the very best and most extensive research efforts to date on the circumstances, health, and development of
children in immigrant families and the delivery of health and social services to these children and their families. These analyses, therefore, expand enormously on existing knowledge about these children and families and point toward future research. Overall, the findings suggest that despite the greater exposure of children in immigrant families, especially first-generation children, to socioeconomic risks that tend to lead to negative outcomes for children generally, despite the predominance of racial and ethnic minorities among children in immigrant families, and despite a lack of feeling in control of their own lives, it appears that these children have physical health that is better than or equal to children in native-born families and that their academic achievement is often at least as good, if not better, than children in native-born families. These advantages appear to diminish over time and across generations. It is important to not overgeneralize, however, for there is enormous variability among children in immigrant families with various countries of origin.
Brown, E.R., R. Wyn, H. Yu, A. Valenzuela, and L. Dong 1998 Special tabulations prepared from the 1994 National Health Interview Survey by the University of California at Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Day, J.C. 1996 Population Projections of the United States by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2050. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Populations Reports, P25-1130. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Hernandez, D.J. 1997 Child development and the social demography of childhood. Child Development 68:149-169.
Hernandez, D.J., and E. Charney, eds. 1998 From Generation to Generation: The Health and Well-Being of Children in Immigrant Families. Committee on the Health and Adjustment of Immigrant Children and Families, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Institute of Medicine 1985 Preventing Low Birthweight. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Portes, A. 1995 Children of immigrants: Segmented assimilation and its determinants.
Pp. 248-279 in The Economic Sociology of Immigration: Essays on Networks, Ethnicity, and Entrepreneurship, A. Portes, ed. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
1996 The New Second Generation. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Portes, A., and D. MacLeod 1996 Educational progress of children of immigrants: The roles of class, ethnicity, and school context. Sociology of Education 69:255-275.
Portes, A., and R.G. Rumbaut 1996 Immigrant America: A Portrait. Second edition. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Rumbaut, R.G. 1994a The crucible within: Ethnic identity, self-esteem, and segmented assimilation among children of immigrants. International Migration Review 28:748-794.
1994b Origins and destinies: Immigration to the United States since World War II. Sociological Forum 9:583-621.
1995 The new immigration. Contemporary Sociology 24(4):307-311.
1997a Ties that bind: Immigration and immigrant families in the United States. Pp. 3-46 in Immigration and the Family: Research and Policy on U.S. Immigrants, A. Booth, A.C. Crouter, and N. Landale, eds. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
1997b Paradoxes (and orthodoxies) of assimilation. Sociological Perspectives 40(3):483-511.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1986 Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health, Volume VI, Infant Mortality and Low Birthweight. Bethesda, Md.: National Institutes of Health.